featured photo: Anders Toft

For the many New Yorkers who are accustomed to leading highly active—sometimes nonstop—lives, social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has required a jarring change of pace. Suddenly, an entire city of people who pride themselves on their lifestyle of hustle must remain in their apartments for days on end. And in an age of seemingly endless high-quality content, even Netflix is getting old quickly.

In short, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing New Yorkers to seek out new channels of connection and exploration, not just consumption.

We all sacrifice something in order to protect each other, whether we’re daily gym-goers who now need to get creative with workouts in the living room or extroverts who have to seek out new internet channels for authentic connection. In a time of isolation, people are remembering why we created social media in the first place—to socialize, to connect, to learn.

We talked to a few New Yorkers who are making the most of an isolated existence during a pandemic by creating experiences, connections and habits that might just stick around long after we’ve returned to our normal, daily routines. We also checked out a few fun virtual entertainment options throughout the city. Here are a few ways you can implement healthy connections and practices during quarantine:


Finding New, Online Channels For Connection

Social media can turn from an informative platform to an all-consuming addiction, making us feel far more isolated than before. While many people are pushing the quarantine as time to maximize productivity, that can be a stressful idea in a situation that already has many New Yorkers on edge.

“The biggest priority should be being safe and sane,” said Brian Reitz, a millennial who lives in Inwood, Manhattan.

It’s a time when sanity can be a hard thing to come by, but people adapt. Video-conferencing apps like Zoom have skyrocketed in popularity over the last few weeks.

“I think for the last ten years there’s been a lot of content,” Reitz said. “I think it’ll get boring quickly…Content is a distraction from reality…a lot of these shows are based on posturing.”

Reitz said over the last couple weeks, he has spent less time on social media and more time video conferencing with friends, which has become a go-to option for people to stay connected with loved ones during a frightening and unsure time. And the virus, however horrific, is also a universal and shared experience to talk about.

One particular site that caught Reitz’s attention was Lunchclub, a website that makes curated connections for one-on-one video meetings based on mutual interests. While Lunchclub was built with professional-type connections in mind, Reitz has found it to be a great way to connect with like-minded people looking to make friends and connect over mutual passions and interest.

“If everyone is more or less going through the same problems right now…people can, if nothing else, empathize,” Reitz said.

Zoom, House Party and Marco Polo, all video chatting apps, are a few of the websites that have become popular for New Yorkers looking to have conversations with both old and new friends.

Netflix has also launched Netflix Party, an extension that allows friends and family to link up with each other for long-distance viewing parties. Instagram implemented co-watching to allow users to enjoy similar experiences in 2019.

“People need something to look forward to,” Reitz said. “When you don’t know when you can leave your house, you’ve got to make it yourself.”


Learning To Cook Something New

New Yorkers are notorious for rarely cooking at home and relying heavily on restaurants, one reason the quarantine has been a tough transition for many of them.

Fortunately, plenty of news outlets are publishing recipes for New Yorkers to experiment with as they transition to cooking at home. If you’ve been looking for a reason to expand your cooking skills, this is the time to do it

Some chefs are even hosting quarantine cooking classes online.

Others are getting back to basics. Brooklynite Anya Jones has tried to make the most of her free time creatively in a variety of fields. But when she’s not writing and filming comedy sketches with her boyfriend, she’s learning how to bake bread.

“My Russian background is all about being able to survive on nothing,” said Jones, who grew up in post-Soviet Moscow in the ’90s. “Just being completely innovative and creative with what you have if you’re left with nothing.”

Jones is now making her own starter and has a jar of yeast in the kitchen.

“If we go to the extreme of having no food left in stores, I could at least get yeast,” she said. “The idea of struggling with mental sanity is not new to me at all…I’ve dealt with all of this before. In Russia there were food shortages. How do you stay alone and not go crazy? It’s nothing new…It really feels like a lot of people are freaking out. I try to really make it a pointed effort to reach out to people and tell them that they are going to be okay, that things are really not that bad.”


Exercising

Sanity is directly linked to physical health, something that has become simultaneously easier and more difficult to incorporate into daily life. On the one hand, many of us have a temporary abundance of time to invest in our physical fitness. One the other hand, working out in the living room might just be the only viable option (if your apartment building has a safe rooftop, you might try that, too).

If that’s the case, try using one of the aforementioned video-conferencing apps to organize a group workout with friends.

If you want to schedule your own sessions throughout the week, gyms across the country have adapted with live and on-demand offerings. Gyms like Crunch Fitness, Barry’s Bootcamp, Peloton and others have incorporated live workouts, classes and training schedules into their offerings, if they didn’t have them already. 

AARMY, a bootcamp and cycling fitness program, is offering a host of Instagram Live sessions, along with live digital training packs. Follow @akiniko for more workouts and scheduling.


Exploring

For some, physical fitness won’t be missed as much as the intellectual stimulation. Without the ability to take advantage of living in the cultural center of the country, many New Yorkers are undoubtedly missing their trips to local museums and art exhibits. Fortunately, some local museums were prepared and have made excellent digital experiences available on their websites. 

Take a virtual tour of the Guggenheim Museum, for example, where you can listen to a series on the museum’s architecture in collaboration with architecture and design radio show 99% Invisible, along with art collections and a tour of the museum via Google Arts and Culture.

The MET has also made some stellar virtual tours available with its 360 Project, along with other publications, guides and audio blogs. All of it can be found here.


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